YSEALI on Natural Resource Management


Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI)

The Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) is a U.S. Department of State sponsored program that seeks to strengthen leadership development and networking in Southeast Asia by engaging promising young leaders on critical topics in the region. Under the Mansfield Center's umbrella, the University of Montana and the East-West Center bring 42 Southeast Asian young leaders ages 18-25 to the United States each fall and spring to for an Academic Fellowship on Environmental Issues and Natural Resource Management.

Twenty-one of these students travel to Montana to study shared environmental and natural resource management concerns between Montana and the countries in Southeast Asia. With peers, mentors, and community experts, students explore the role of environmental policy and environmental issues in the context of a globalized society, engage with local partners involved in environmental activism, and develop, refine, and demonstrate leadership within ASEAN to support fellows’ ongoing work. Through academic and field-based learning, fellows gain a well-rounded understanding of natural resource management in Montana and the U.S.

After engaging with these topics at UM, fellows then travel to Louisiana to develop their understanding of natural resource management in a different area of the country. Fellows conclude their program in Washington D.C. where they learn about the federal government’s role in environmental issues and meet with international non-profit and advocacy organizations. Once home, fellows implement projects designed and workshopped during the program to address environmental problems in the region.

The current YSEALI program on natural resources is being held as a hybrid program, which includes virtual activities and an in-person U.S.-based Institute. The virtual activities run for six weeks and engage fellows with academic sessions on natural resources. The in-person Montana-based Institute will resume, and all fellows will visit the U.S., when safe and favorable travel conditions return.

Community Involvement

Community and UM student engagement is a highlight of the experience for YSEALI fellows and supports an important goal of ours to create opportunities for cross-cultural interaction and international friendships right here in Montana.

Community members may participate in this program as weekend homestay host families. This rewarding two-way exchange allows hosts to learn about other cultures while sharing what they love about Montana with their guests. Past activities include attending local community events, cooking meals for one another, visiting neighboring towns, and engaging in local recreation like hiking, fishing, and swimming.

Undergraduate students may participate in the UM Student Leader Cohort

where they are responsible for participating in leadership and cultural activities to help YSEALI fellows integrate into the UM and Missoula communities. This means sharing slices of daily life and what makes Missoula special to you – hike the M, visit the farmer’s market, hang out with friends, etc.

Graduate students can apply to work as graduate teaching assistants (GTAs). In this paid position, GTAs assist the Academic Director in guiding program participants to academic and cultural sessions as well as helping fellows develop their community project proposals. This is a great opportunity for those interested in developing field-based teaching skills, learning about Southeast Asia, and helping interpret U.S. and Montana culture.

Through The Eyes of YSEALI

Learn more by reading posts from fellows on the YSEALI on Natural Resources program blog.


Check out these vlogs created by alumni: